La Paz - Guaqui Railway

by John Hinson

El Alto La Paz signal box
Photograph 1/70, from the collection of Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

This basic-looking corrugated-iron hut is the signal box at El Alto. El Alto is above La Paz, which is the administrative capital of Bolivia. The signalman stands outside the box in the sunshine, wearing his uniform hat. El Alto is the point where the electrified section of the La Paz - Guaqui Railway crosses the Bolivian State Railway's La Paz to Oruro and Arica line. Both lines are metre-gauge.

The wooden signals are of crude construction and were made locally.

La Paz lies in a valley below the surrounding altiplano. Guaqui is (or was) the main Bolivian port on Lake Titicaca, around 12,500 feet above sea level. El Alto was almost certainly the highest signal box in the world, at a quoted 14,000 feet, although other sources suggest it would have been little higher than Lake Titicaca itself.

Additional notes by John Ingham

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson